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Oct 31, 2010 02:16 AM

Looking for Foodie Wisdom ! - Tokyo 19 Dec - 2 Jan


Looking for a bit of wisdom from the readers of this board....

Bit of a late plan to head to Tokyo for a Epicurus adventure from 19 Dec to 2 Jan

Normally I love doing the deep research of where to go, but I've left this trip somewhat late to plan properly

Hence I would greatly appreciate you assistance .... and I will post my thoughts after of the places you reccomend if you like :)

To give you some more info to thin down the never ending choices ..

-Will be staying somewhere around Ginza
-Want to see the Tsujiki Fish Market (useful to get a guide?)
-Happy to pay up for food that is worth it, but also keen to try the small local 'wonders' that aren't usually on most peoples travels
-Preference for experiencing more Japanese food rather than Western in Japan
-Will also be my 40 th in this trip, so aiming to have one ultimate' or perhaps a few', splurges in a place I wouldn't normally get in other countries
-Fairly open to all trying more exotic local delicaicies

For a bit of background, I have been on a trip to Kytoo and Osaka a few years ago. Found the best foodie bit was actually just wandering around our suburban hotel neighbourhood, and wandering into a local Yakitori place - proceeding with a fantastic series of grills and skewers that we cooked over our own coals..... Was an eye opener having them change the grills and wander through the people :) Also had an amazing 'salaryman'? breakfast under the a place in the maze of tunnels under one of the Osaka train Stations

Please let me know of all your suggestions


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  1. Well if you wanna splurge, you should start on making reservations as the time you are going is going to be very popular.

    for cutting edge japanese go to Ryugin (there must be over 10 threads in this forum on this restaurant, you need to experience it!)

    for the best sushi go to Sushi Saito, or Sushi Mizutani ( these 2 exceed Sukiyabashi Jiro and if u cant speak japanese i recommend u avoid going to Jiro)
    also go during lunch to save money.

    for high quality tempura go to Ten Ichi Ginza. well known among the locals and moderately priced.

    for one of the best traditional japanese go to Ishikawa

    2 Replies

      Do you know if you need to speak Japanese to make reservations at Sushi Saito? We're heading to Japan next week for two weeks total and would like to make reservations for lunch there. Thank you!

      1. re: e_tsai

        yes, it is ideal to speak japanese for these sushi places. but if ur staying at a hotel, just ask the concierge to make the reservation for u! most hotels will be more than happy to make reservations for u at any restaurant.

    2. Around New Year's, many restaurants will be closed, some for a full week. Around January 1st, you might be stuck eating at hotel restaurants or if I were you, I'd choose that time to take a trip outside of Tokyo and stay at a ryokan. You'd have to book train/bus and the ryokan now, though.

      22 Replies
      1. re: prasantrin

        To date have booked at Tapas Molecular Bar, and Ryugin. I will have to get my act in gear to get a few more places.

        I think will do the Ten Ichi as I have seen it mentioned alot on the boards here.

        Have tried booking Aronia via their Web site, but as its in Japanese not sure if I fille dit out correclty. I might ask concierge to see if they are able to arrange. They did it for Ryugin

        Will also do Ippudo. I ran across it in New York and was blown away at the time on their Pork Bun's.... I thought they were a one offf instance in the Big Apple... Little did I know they had a series of shops here.


        1. re: Blacken

          Ippudo is a chain from Fukuoka. They don't serve pork buns at the shops in Japan. That's a one off item for NYC.

          1. re: Silverjay

            No, it ended up coming here too:


            I used to get them at the Ebisu branch occasionally.

            1. re: kamiosaki

              Ahh. Looks tasty. Yeah, says they were being introduced after getting popular in NY.

              1. re: Silverjay

                Had them in Kyoto a couple of years ago. They were good, I thought, but not spectacular.

                1. re: prasantrin

                  Agreed. The tsukemen is the best thing that Ippudo has come out with recently.

                2. re: Silverjay

                  At the NYC Ippudo, they recently introduced a vegetarian broth! Do you know if they have one at the Ippudo in Tokyo?

                  1. re: lavendula

                    I just checked their Japanese corporate website and the do not list any vegetarian. They have a full allergy chart posted as well and all the soups are made with chicken and/or pork.

                    There are, I believe, a couple of vegetarian ramen places somewhere in the metropolis but I do not know the specifics.

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      Thanks for checking for me! If anyone knows of a fantastic ramen place that offers both veggie and non-veggie broth that would be great :)

                      1. re: lavendula

                        We did a thread on that some time back. I'm not sure if anything came up at the time. There's a website out their for vegetarians/ vegans in Japan with lists of restaurants.

                        1. re: Silverjay

                          I've found a few vegetarian sites that cover Tokyo, but mostly their listings seem to be around ten years out of date.

                        2. re: lavendula

                          Oh, just rememberd that Ivan Ramen does a vegetarian broth or two... Figures. He's from NYC.

                            1. re: lavendula

                              You're not going to find many vegetarian ramen options so you don't have much choice, but Robb is high on the other non-veggie ramen there for your husband's sake.

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                I just checked out the website:

                                Can you guys tell me which dishes are veggie as I have no idea :)

                                1. re: lavendula

                                  Click the image at the bottom of the page. It's the link to the other shop.

                                2. re: Silverjay

                                  Ha ha, whatever gave you that idea?

                                  But yes, I do love the four-cheese ramen at Ivan Ramen Plus (as I may have mentioned elsewhere) and I thought the vegetable tsukemen was also very good - it's cold noodles served with a very flavorful dipping sauce that's soy-milk based. It's very garlicky, and enhanced with boiled vegetables. I wasn't actually aware that it was vegetarian, but I guess it might be; the website will probably say.

                                3. re: lavendula

                                  Also, I think it is the Ivan Ramen PLUS shop that does the vegetarian stuff. They have an English website if you google.

                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                    I emailed the shop regarding vegetarian choices and Ivan personally wrote back the same day - pretty impressive ;) Of course now my husband doesn't want to eat at a NY'ers restaurant while in Japan (we live in NYC)!

                                    1. re: lavendula

                                      That sentiment is why I suggested in the other thread that Ivan's shops might appeal more to expats.

                  2. re: Blacken

                    Have also booked Birdland, Kondo, and Les Creations Narisawa....

                    Might do a day trip out to Kamakura. If so - anything particularly nice out there?


                3. Does anyone have any dining suggestions for Narita City?? I know this is off topic for this thread, but you all seem to know so much, and my Narita post got no responses. HELP PLEASE!!

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: sockster

                    I'm guessing no one replied because there have already been a number of threads on that topic. I'd suggest doing a search on this board, narrowing down your choices, and then posting those and asking for more input.

                    1. re: prasantrin

                      Funny, I did that and found nothing..

                      1. re: sockster

                        Funny, I found at least two, and then I stopped searching.

                    2. re: sockster

                      If you are flying into Narita you might want to ask some flight attendants what they like in Narita. These days most airlines put their crews up in Narita so, being there often they might be a good source to ask.

                        1. re: sockster

                          I follow chowhound maybe a bit too religiously and have just a word to say about Birdland...Have just been for dinner and it's not for entry level Japanese food enthusiasts. I can see how other people might be happy to pay 12,000 yen (for 2) for the privilege of eating raw chicken and every other internal organ you can imagine but if you are not someone that's hugely into Japanes food just be warned when you order the set menu you are ordering every part of the bird. I was not aware raw chicken was a specialty in Japan and felt under terrible obligation to eat it, then wolf down chicken liver pieces and smile politely and pay quite a bit for it all. The restaurant was nice and service lovely but I felt they were very disappointed when I left a piece here and there on the plate. I was disppointed also, I didn't find any of the food especially tasty and most of it largely inedible. I love sushi, ramen, shabu shabu and soba but I'm sorry but I don't think this is a restaurant for everyone.

                          1. re: Jules101

                            Hmm I have Birdland locked in. Wasn't aware of raw chicken :) Will be a new experience I guess - Cheers

                            1. re: Blacken

                              I love chicken sashimi, the one prepared in Torizenseo is perfect! I actually have a complete different experience from Jules (not about Birdland, I have never been there) but the reason i like yakitori is because I love to try all the different internal organs of the chicken: the liver, the kidney, the soft bone, the butt, the neck etc etc.

                              1. re: FourSeasons

                                Yeah, the chicken butt can be fantastic It doesn't sound very attractive to admit you had chicken a*** for dinner and loved it, but it is an excellent cut.

                                I also have to agree with FourSeasons that the chicken sashimi at Torizenseo - a restaurant he kindly introduced me to - is excellent.

                                1. re: Asomaniac

                                  Raw chicken, chicken brains, rooster balls, etc. are all a-ok. Well, not the balls. Those aren't particularly tasty. People just have to get over any preconceptions about food that they may have.

                                  Agreed about chicken butt. I remember my father becoming very angry with me for eating the butt off a chicken he had just roasted--he had been looking forward to eating it all day, only to find it ripped off by me! People who don't like fatty food or chicken skin, though, won't like it so much. It's pretty much just fat and skin. That's why I like it. :-)

                                  But fried chicken butt far surpasses grilled or roasted chicken butt. There's an almost-fine dining restaurant in Bacolod (Philippines) that serves a particularly good version .

                                  1. re: prasantrin

                                    Mhhhh.... fat and skin.....

                                    What about deep fried chicken butt? That must be delicious - properly crunchy skin, semi-liquefied fat?

                                    1. re: Asomaniac

                                      It looks like this


                                      Would have been better with a different sauce, though.

                              2. re: Blacken

                                I feel compelled to chime in with:
                                If you like chicken and sashimi, you should love chicken sashimi. Consider that millions of raw eggs are eaten every day in Japan, and hopefully that will make you feel less squeamish about the raw meat.

                                Organs, I avoid. I'm still American. Crunchy/squishy stuff like gizzard or intestine is tough (but sometimes tasty...).

                                1. re: jem589

                                  jem - I'm with you on organs; don't tend to enjoy those at all. I did find a chicken heart someone persuaded me to try surprisingly palateable, but not enough to actually order it myself. In general, organs and cartilage are not for me.

                                  To be honest, I can also do without most vegetables at yakitori places. I love vegetables, but unless they have bacon wrapped around them or you count shiitake as vegetable, I avoid them at yakitori places. Yakitori is meat, meat, more meat and beer and sake for me, plus the occasional odd one out, like cheese or mochi wrapped in bacon.

                                  The most winning combination is meat with a healthy dose of fat and crispy skin. If it doesn't raise your cholesterol levels just by looking at it, it is usually not my top choice for yakitori (unless it is super-soft, rare sasami with wasabi on top. Ahhhh...).

                              3. re: Jules101

                                I don’t mind various chicken/ pork/ beef parts myself. Some I prefer more than others. But I always prefer to choose which ones I want to eat. I’ve never been a fan of “course” or “omakase” dining at these type of specialty restaurants. It’s one thing to dine like this for actual “cuisine” like kaiseki or nuevo-kaiseki or French or Italian or whatever. But yakitori or tempura or other type of working class specialties that have been elevated in recent years is something I draw the line at. Honestly, I don’t think they appeal to hardcore foodies but more to the sort of people who fancy themselves gourmands. There’s this type of approach with a lot of stuff in Japan- not just with food. These type of places also seem to appeal to Michelin’s star system, which seems to place an emphasis on very controlled dining experiences. I know plenty of Japanese foodies/chowhounds who abhor this type of dining as well. There are so many great yakitori shops in Tokyo. Many of them will serve free range, very tenderly raised, local, tasty types of grilled chicken- like actual meat. Not just cartilage and gizzards and shit like that. These shops won’t try to control every aspect of the meal and they may be rough around the edges in some way, but they serve hearty and delicious food. One of my favorite shops is a local dumpy hole in the wall run by a surly family. Everyday a little delivery truck arrives from the Nagoya farm where they procure their bird. Their specialty is a huge, Fred Flintstone sized momo-yaki that is grilled with sea salt. The meat is juicy and bursting with chicken flavor and the skin is thin and crispy. You eat it like a dinosaur, hunkered over a cheap metal plate. And you wash it down with cold beer. There’s nothing delicate about it, but you literally think about going back the next night. I’m definitely not thinking about going back to Y6,000 gizzards and chicken asses the day after- and I don’t care how nice the service is.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  Hi Silverjay,

                                  This post was written a long time ago, but I'm curious if you've written about this local dumpy hole in the wall before. I'd love to get the name so I could hunker over my meat like a dinosaur.

                                  1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

                                    Toriei in front of Denenchofu Station ( but it seems to have taken a dive since the family patriarch passed away and the son took over.

                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                      Ah, sorry to hear that. Thanks for the link, though!

                        2. First, I disagree that you'll need reservations--this is not a aparticularly busy time of year. As some have said, you'll have the opposite problem, as places simply won't be open.

                          Do you know much about Japanese food? I will recommend a few basic train stations where you should get off, walk around, and experience the food culture, and a few basic types of food that you should not go home without missing. Let me know if you want further information about any, as Tokyo has 100,000 restaurants and all kinds of food, so it's hard to get specific.

                          Districts: (head to these train stations and walk around)

                          Kagurazaka: French quarter. Great french, great traditional Japanese snacks/desserts
                          Nishi-Azabu: Elite expats, rich and stylish. Great old-fashioned stores and atmosphere.
                          Waseda (my home): over 200 ramen places, including ippudou. I also recommend “ore no sora,” though any of the 200 is probably good.
                          Ueno: street stall shopping area called Ame-Yoko. Was the black market after WWII. Now a tourist area with good street food and some interesting stores.
                          Kappabashi: Near Asakusa (which itself is famous for its traditional Japanese treats), the Kitchen supply capital of Tokyo. Great to walk around. Buy: knives, ceramic ginger grater, sushi equipment. plastic food.
                          Kichijoji: great foreign food, but not exclusively. Also bars I've heard. Has a beautiful park nearby to walk through as well.
                          Shimo-Kitazawa: alternative area with lots of trendy/arty cafes
                          Shin-Okubo: Korean district, with great Korean food and interesting stores

                          The big stations for tourists/shoppers like Omotesando, Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Roppongi are fine but tend to be more expensive and less interesting. IMO the above are the most interesting food areas in central Tokyo.

                          -Okonomiyaki & Monja – most interesting Japanese foods around
                          -Tonkatsu (pork cutlets)
                          -Onigiri – at 7'11
                          -Ten-Zaru/Ten-seiro Soba: Tempura with cold soba noodles
                          -Cha-tsuke: rice with little bits of things on top and tea/hot water poured on top
                          -Japanese style Curry rice: I don't like it all that much, but it is the number 1 favorite food of -Japanese under 30
                          -Soup Curry: this is a dish that's from Hokkaido and is different from, and far better than, its plainer, sweeter, less spicy cousin. Tokyo Rakkyo brothers near Waseda is good if you can't find another.
                          -Okinawan Soba/spam sushi (if available)
                          -Macha, freshly prepared with treats.
                          -raw horse sashimi or sushi; called basashi as sashimi
                          -Takoyaki – grilled octopus balls
                          -nabe: hot pots, especially popular in the winter, and shabu-shabu; these are more expensive and might be awkward to eat if you are by yourself
                          -basement of any major department store. Trust me, you will want to go to several of these for the variety and free samples
                          -all manners of Japanese style sweets made with red bean and gelatin. I found an amazing place located along a small river lined with cherry trees the other day but can't recall the name.

                          I also recommend getting grilled fish in addition to the obvious sushi/sashimi: sanma and saba are excellent here. A chain place called himo-no-ya makes great fish, there's one near waseda station.

                          Izakayas have the most interesting food and it all comes on small plates. It might be hard to go in by yourself, however, and will be more expensive than all that I listed above, which are all excellent and cheap.

                          Ryokans (if you stay there outside of Tokyo) are hit or miss: find one that brings in a lot of tourists and the food is standardized and crappy. Find one where they go into the woods to pick their own mushrooms, create their own special noodles and soups, etc, and everything is healthy, refreshing, and beautiful. There is a great hostel (but private rooms available) in Nikko that serves vegetarian cuisine. It should be google-able, and if you go there I recommend it highly.

                          Finally, since it is your 40th birthday and a representative of the legendary Takeda knife-making family will be in Tokyo (Ikebukuro) during your stay, head there and buy the knife. I've heard his Chinese cleavers are excellent if that's your style (it's also my style but I already have two the size of 747 wings), but I bought his 240 cm gyuutou. Hand-made of Aogami super blue carbon, it is near perfection. I met the guy himself, but you can get the same demonstration from his assistant who will be there in his stead. He'll be at the Tobu department store 10th floor exhibition hall, from 12/30 to 1/11 (but probably closed 31/1?). You can email him in English for more information.


                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Charles Barkley

                            I'll just say that Awesomeketchup was correct in pointing out that this is a pretty busy time of year, up until Dec 31st.

                            Many places will be closed on Jan 1st, OP's last night, but up until then there are bonenkai parties, special xmas and holiday dinners, etc., and pretty much every restaurant is open at least until Dec. 30.

                            1. re: Robb S

                              If the OP wants to arrange bonenkai, then yeah, it might be a little late, but unless he's traveling in a large group, I don't see much overlap there. Many universities are out before Christmas, so small places in those areas sometimes close longer, as do mom and pop places in shitamachi areas of Tokyo.

                              But I suppose in the end, no matter the day or hour, no one can go hungry in Tokyo.

                              1. re: Charles Barkley

                                I guess when people talk about reservation in this thread, they are referring to those very high end restaurant like Ryugin, not just restaurant that feed hungry people. So do you mean you can just walk in to Ryugin and expect to have a table in this period of the year ?

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  Yes, that's certainly what I was talking about. Since OP talked about booking Tapas Molecular Bar (which has only 7 or 8 seats) and similar places, it's always a good idea to book early. (And OP gave no indication that he was planning to stay in a university town.)

                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                    I will defer to the two of you about high end restaurants in late december then.

                                    I assumed this wasn't all the OP wanted to try, however, since the one restaurant he described at length was a small local yakitori place. These are the types of places (especially in shitamachi, or university areas of town that have interesting everyman food) that occasionally close for longer periods of time during this time of year.

                                    Anyway, here's a link to the Japanese sweets place I mentioned. It's on the Kandagawa river in a beautiful location that gives you a different look at Tokyo. Order the cream shiratama anmitsu and you won't be sorry.


                                    There is another good one in kagurazaka near iidabashi station.

                            2. Hello,

                              Flying out in a couple of hours ! :)

                              And here is what we have actually ended up booking

                              Taps Molecular Bar
                              Aronia De Takazawa
                              Creations Narisawa

                              Will also aim to head to Ippudo - I really do have a fascination with their pork buns... Thanks Charles for that guide, and I will definitely try to get a knife.

                              Reading through my list unfortunately I havent set anything up for some Authentic Ramen, but I will do that shortly when there.

                              And of course it looks like I'll be doing an early morning trip or two to the fish market, and a trip to Kappibashi. Expect also Henri Charpentier for a snack or two ;P

                              Cheers and thanks for you advice - will post some feedback later


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Blacken

                                Regarding Takeda, if you manage to make it out to see him, he's been doing some beautiful small straight razors that are definitely worth checking out. If you don't see them, ask the rep about them and he may have some with him. Aogami Supersteel straight razors.

                                I also have to second Charles Barkleys recommend on their Gyutou, I would pick it up over most knives on the market.